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Stone / quarries

Contributed by Turathuna Bethlehem University on 23.01.2007:

The industries of stone – cutting and sculpture are as old as time. Stone cutting for building began in Bethlehem’s stone -quarries, one of which was at the site of Jrun il-Hummus opposite the Tantur convent, and it is buried today. There was another stone – quarry at Al-Moradeh site in the Nativity Street, and it is also buried under buildings which were erected over the quarry. The white stones from these two quarries are called “Mizzi Hilu”. Other stone – quarries were discovered in Bethlehem and Beit Jala at As-Slayyib site and other sites containing beautiful rose – colored stones. Numerous other stone – quarries were discovered in the Al-Khader and Beit Sahour areas as well as in other areas.

It is worth mentioning that in 1958 long columns were extracted from the site of As-Slayyib. Some were five meters long with a diameter of sixty centimeters. They were sent to Baghdad in Iraq to be used in the building of the Royal Hashemite Palace. The craftsmen’s skill in this art is demonstrated by the carving of the columns in accordance with the order of engineers. They also used them as pipes to drain rain water.

Many people from the towns of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour earned their living from this industry. Camels facilitated the work by transporting stones to the building sites in the country.

During the British Mandate of Palestine the building industry flourished. Emigrants returning from the Diaspora began constructing houses and buildings to rent in Jerusalem and in the districts of Al-Baq’a, Al-Qatamon, Al-Musrarah and other parts. When the Jews overpowered the Arabs in the 1948 war, they occupied these districts. These houses and buildings are now under their control.

Around 1967 electric saws from Yalta, Bani N’aim and other parts of the Hebron area were imported and newly employed for cutting white stones. These stones are suitable for cutting and polishing. They were cut to a thickness of five centimeters to cover the facades of houses and buildings.

The use of these white stones increased rapidly and they were in demand in the West Bank, Israel and abroad. The estimated exports of these stones are as follows: 30% to the West Bank 60% to Israel 10% to Jordan and other countries.

Source:”Bethlehem, The Immortal Town” by Giries Elali.

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